'Doing things differently' is a key pledge of the recently-re-elected Labour Council.
We've listened to what the poeple of Darlington have said, and promised to look at how the Council operates, to ensure that transparency and openness are at the heart of everything we do.
A key test will be how Cabinet meetings operate. Not everyone is aware that Government rather than local rules dictate the formation of Cabinets. Parliament wanted to sweep away the old Committee system in local government, which was too closely associated with delay, and with whipped votes decided in advance. Unfortunately, that also spelled the death-knell for debate regarding key decisions. Cabinet meetings are turgid affairs, with a single party moving and agreeing decisions. That the opposition can challenge Cabinet resolutions by bringing in Scrutiny and ultimately Full Council has been rarely deployed here in Darlington.
It will be shortly announced, however, that the Leaders of the Tories and the LibDems, together with the independent Chair of Darlington Partnership and one of the Scrutiny Chairs will all sit at Cabinet meetings and be able to question and debate the proposals. They can't vote because of the framework laid down by Parliament, but this change will help hold the Executive to account. I expect there to be greater interest in Cabinet meetings, and probably more referrals to Scrutiny as a result.
Be prepared for further developments in the same vein over the next few weeks. Overall, this should be very good for democracy in the town.